“Good morning, Goddess, it’s good to see you,” Hal said.
That’s how Hal, the groundskeeper of the Montague Farm, where the Zen Peacemakers once had its headquarters, greets me. It’s how he greeted me this morning when I brought the dogs to the Farm after returning home Tuesday morning.
Hal isn’t his real name, I don’t use people’s real names without permission unless they’re public persons in some way. Hal is one of Henry’s best friends. As soon as he saw us, he stopped mowing the big septic field on the side of the hill, the one we’d built after the Commonwealth of Massachusetts rejected our application to build a more eco-friendly, sustainable alternative, and picked up some twigs to throw to Henry, who rushed over towards him with such exuberance I thought the little dog would take off and fly in the air.
We talked about how things were going for him, the people who’d taken over the Farm, the fall that had been so cold, then turned hot while I was on the West Coast, and is now slipping back to New England fall. I looked at the leaves beginning their turn and thought of how lucky I was to have lived through more than 20 New England autumns.
I’m reminded of relatively small things. Not the big things you see from tall vantage points, the gorgeous city at the other end of the Golden Gate Bridge or the violent, white Pacific waves crashing into this continent as seen from on high, but the small things, like the tiny wild purple asters growing at the top of cliffs, singing their song in a lower volume than the Pacific.
In between throws of twigs for Henry, Hal and I talked about what kind of an imprint we will leave on the land of the Farm. He considered himself lucky to be one of many who leaves something here.
It’s not how we first thought when Bernie and I, part of a 12-person convoy, arrived here. Then, we talked about what we were going to do with the land, not what the land would do with us. We learned. Boy, did we learn. So has everyone else who has been here, starting with Marshall Bloom and his coterie of radicals back in early 1970s, on to the Zen Peacemakers, and on to the present owners. Kicking and screaming, we learned to listen to the land.
I think listening is the first job of being a Goddess.
It was much warmer here than on the West Coast, but we’d had lots of rain here, much like the floods that hit New York City some days ago, remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia, and my sandals sloshed in the deep puddles that overlay the short grass, my feet sliding right inside them, everything getting dirty and wet.
That’s when I remembered Sam Lovejoy, a lawyer and local celebrity known for untying the ropes that held down a tower built in the 1970s as a first step towards developing a nuclear plant here. The tower fell, Sam admitted to everything, the nuclear plant was not built, and Sam was found not guilty by a jury of his peers in a trial that made national headlines.
Sam sat with us the first time we came here in early 2002 and told us that we could upgrade the old Farmhouse to meet code and, of course, renovate the old barn, but, he warned, don’t build small guest cabins on top of the hill because the water table is so high.
Bernie had planned to do just that, and while I was disappointed, he started tweaking things, finally making plans to build those cabins higher up in the woods above the rushing creek. Tweaking is a wonderful Zen practice, the equivalent of meandering during street retreats: If this doesn’t work, I’ll go left, or I’ll go right, or maybe I should go up, down, anywhere else.
Those cabins didn’t happen, either, and while Bernie had plenty of disappointments, he often told me: “Nine out of ten things I plan don’t work out. That’s a good percentage, I think.”
One other thing I recalled this morning as I sloshed through puddles after parting from Hal. Bernie didn’t like the word try, as in: Okay, I’ll try to raise that money, or I’ll try to bake that cake, or I’ll try to become a vegetarian. “Don’t try,” he used to say, “just do it. If it works out, fine. If it doesn’t work out, also fine. Don’t try.”
No halfhearted approaches to life for him. Nor for me.
Welcome home, Eve.
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